Spending four years in sunny San Diego with SEAL Team 3 must’ve rubbed off on Missouri native Josh Bridges—He exuded a laid-back, California cool during a candid chat with GovX about life, fitness, and being bred for combat and chaos.
Growing up, I played every sport I could get my hands on. Except for hockey, because my mom said that was way too expensive. Baseball was my biggest passion going into high school, but it was wrestling which I truly fell in love with, and I ended up focusing solely on that. I love how in wrestling, it’s just you on the mat, with nowhere to hide. It’s just you and your opponent.
I did some telemarketing after high school. That was hell, man. Totally god awful. Every day, I’d question where my life was going. So I got out of that and worked as a loan officer, just like the guys in The Big Short. That was me. I was one of those idiots talking about subprime loans in the middle of an economic disaster. It was absolutely insane work; I couldn’t believe what I was doing.
About two years into that, I met this guy who came through as another officer—back in those days, guys were coming in and out every week—and he mentioned how his lifelong goal was to be a Navy SEAL. I was in landlocked St Louis, Missouri, and I didn’t even know what the hell a SEAL was. But we became friends and the idea started to appeal to me. So I started doing some research. I started working out again, which was a welcome change from drinking all the time, eating crappy food, and trying to make sales 24/7.
I started doing Crossfit around then after learning a lot of the workouts they did would provide excellent preparation for SEAL training.
The SEALs are the most elite warriors out there. The more research I did, the more I learned about this job, the more I told myself,
Yeah, I want that.
I figured, I was 22 years old, and if there’s a chance for me to do this, right now is the time. I gave myself a year and a half deadline to get myself ready for it, and during that time I enlisted in the Navy.
After regular boot camp, my friend and I enrolled in a buddy program to BUD/S.
He ended up quitting on day two.
I think he may have put it up on too high of a pedestal. This was his lifelong goal, whereas I’d only been attracted to the idea for just about two years. So as I result, I didn’t feel too stressed out about it. I felt pretty confident going into BUD/S and I told myself, the only way I’m not gonna get through this is if I get injured or I get sick.
But I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I tried to enjoy it too. I thought I’m getting paid to work out right now.
Getting my trident pin was a hard feeling to describe. I got pinned by Admiral Olsen, and yes, when he pinned that trident to my chest I felt proud of getting where I was, but I kept telling myself that I hadn’t accomplished anything that someone else already had. This was in 2007, and we were six years deep into the war already. I felt like I’d won the playoffs, but the World Series—the serious work—was about to start.
So it was a short-lived celebration. I got pinned on Friday. I walked into Team 3 on Monday. And they told me I’d be leaving for Iraq in five days. Congratulations, you have your trident. Now you’re going to war.
And I’m telling you, you go right back down the totem pole right then. It starts all over again. You go from having just completed BUD/S, the most grueling training program in the entire US military, to being a Fuckin’ New Guy.
But I got to go on four or five ops during a two-month period, which was actually pretty slow for the teams. That was right when Iraq turned. To make it a little easier to understand, I had arrived in-country right after the hierarchy of Iraq went from hating the US government to appreciating the US government.
They said, “Congratulations, you have your trident. Now you’re going to war. You leave for Iraq in five days.”
All that aside, we did see our share of action. There was plenty of chaos and experiences that I’ll never forget. You get to be very close with your brothers during those moments. It’s like being on a baseball team, except you live with your teammates 24/7. I definitely miss that. You don’t love everyone. Hell, you don’t even like everyone. But you respect them for being there with you.
I believe God bred certain kinds of men and women for war. People who can handle bullets flying over their head, you know? You don’t really want the people back home to know what that’s like, because it’s not for everyone. So that’s why I actually find it pretty genuine when someone walks up to a person in uniform and thank them for their service.
I served a few more years with the SEALs, and several more deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. My two sons were both born on deployment years. I got to come home for my first son’s birth, and got to stay with him for the first seven days of his life, and then I was back in country for another four months.
I dislocated my left knee on my last deployment. It was amazing how well I was cared for after that happened. My primary goal became to get my left leg better, so for a year, I rehabbed and got myself back to 100%. My leg was better, but I ended up going to the training command, a 2 to 3-year non-combat role. I had a family to take care of, after all. I ultimately got out of the military in 2015, and I can look back on my career and feel proud of what I accomplished.
These days, I’m a professional CrossFit athlete. I’ve scored three Top 10 CrossFit Games finishes and I’m nowhere near done. Last year I finished first in the California Regionals. I enjoy the competition and the constant testing of my limits.
And when I’m not doing that, I’m spending time with my boys.
Some of the most fun I have is coaching wrestling on the side for the kids. There’s something amazing about watching a six-year-old kid focus on winning. I remember the first time I saw my son realize that if you win a match, the referee raises your hand into the air and everyone cheers for you.
It was like a switch flipped in his head, and I saw him thinking, “
Yeah, I want that.“